Monday, October 8, 2007

Rock Creek Falls Trail

This hike began with an unexpected surprise: a fee. Generally speaking, I don't like to pay just to go wander around on public lands (I tend to feel my wandering rights are secured by my tax dollars. I'd rather believe that than face the idea that they're funding this godforsaken war). However, since I had driven quite a distance to reach this place, and had not brought the necessary guidebooks with me to decide upon another trail, I paid up. It was only two bucks, and for once in my life I actually had cash on me. Yay!

I decided to do a waterfall hike because I had not seen a fall since the week I moved up here. This one sounded mostly easy, and it was. This was actually a refreshing change. The first segment of the trail was actually wide, level, and graveled, allowing me to take in my surroundings instead of focusing 90% of my attention on the trail. Even after the gravelling ended, the trail followed an old road bed, and remained wide and fairly flat for some time. Eventually it got rocky and I had to begin paying more attention to where I placed my feet, but I had looked around so much during the first portion of the hike that my neck actually started to ache!

There wasn't much of an incline to the trail, so I was fairly sprinting along when I came across this spot:

It doesn't look like much in this photo, I realize, but when I first happened across it it was hosting a couple of gentlemen who went by the names of Bill and "Mump." We got to talking, and it turns out they are members of the Johnson City Old Timers Hiking Club. Once we got done jawing, we continued on together, and I got to be an honorary Old Timer for the day. :) The trail increased in steepness just a bit as it continued, and after a couple more rest stops, and a pause to chat with some other Old Timers who had already made the falls and were on their way back, we ended up there ourselves. Here's a shot of Mump (left), Bill (middle) and CB (right, who we "picked up" close to the falls) taking in the well-earned view.

And here's my blurry shot of the falls themselves. I had recently taken to carrying only my small camera as it was much less heavy, but after reviewing my photos from several hikes, I was unimpressed with the quality. I hate using flash on outdoor shots, so I turn it off. The little camera, however, doesn't do so well with compensating for that fact (much smaller lens aperture, lets in less light, yada yada yada), so then I almost invariably wind up with blurry pictures. I've since broken down and started carrying my heavy DSLR again. *sigh* Oh well, I bought the thing for a reason, didn't I?

The Old Timers tell me that this falls is much more spectacular at certain times of the year, especially after we've had some considerable rain. They also said that it is beautiful in the wintertime when it freezes.

After meandering around near the base of the falls for a while, and nibbling on a granola bar, I took my leave of these amiable gentlemen. It was, after all, a Monday, and I had many packages yet to prepare and ship. And quite a drive home to boot.

On my way back I was able to hustle quite effectively, although once I hit the flatter, easier portion of the trail again I slowed down to look around me some more. It was then that I noticed a squirming, buzzing mass on the ground just ahead of me. Upon closer inspection, it seemed several yellowjackets were fighting intently over something. Or killing it. Or eating it. Or something. Aw, here's the photo; decide for yourselves:

I honestly couldn't see what it was that they were clustered around, and I wasn't about to disturb them to try and find out. I contented myself with a few quick (flash) pictures, and scooted out of their field of vision as quickly as possible. I've never been stung by anything but one bee, and I don't plan on changing that record any sooner than necessary!

Finishing up the hike, I noted that they were revamping one of the park's structures. I'd guess it's a visitor center or something of that ilk, although there were no signs around identifying it. If nothing else it contained a bathroom or bath house, as I heard the workmen discussing ADA grab bar requirements as I packed myself and my stuff into the car. I guess that's where my tax dollars really go. Or was it paid for by my fee? Meh, whatever. It was an enjoyable hike, and I even met my first hiking friends!